Saturday, December 9, 2017

Baha'i School ranked among the top Boarding Schools in India

RiverDale School has been ranked among the top Boarding Schools in India second year running. In its annual rankings for 2017-18, Education Today has ranked RiverDale 4th in India, and 1st in Maharashtra and Pune among all Boarding Schools in India. Received the award on behalf of the School at the awards ceremony in Bangalore moments ago.

This achievement is clear acknowledgement of the hard-work and care with which the school staff have been discharging their duties and responsibilities, and the diligence with which the students have been responding to the guidance and efforts of their teachers, dorm-parents and other staff.

Congratulations to the entire RiverDale School community.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Learning from Fund Gatherings held in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry

Dearly loved friends

Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of India and is bordered by the Union territory of Puducherry. It is a land famed for its Hindu temple architecture, miles and miles of coastline and its fiery and distinctive cuisine. It is also home to over thirty two thousand Bahá'ís and the entire region is divided into eighty six clusters with thirty six Local Spiritual Assemblies tending to the needs of local communities.

As the activities in the region intensify and grow in number, the Regional Bahá'í Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry has undertaken a systematic process of fund education. Increasingly, individuals see giving to the fund as a part of their Bahá'í identity, communities afford all an opportunity to contribute without emphasis being laid on the amount, and institutions are learning to have a high sense of justice and a flexibility that comes from an understanding of different realities in clusters. A review of the Ruhi institute materials makes it clear that giving to the funds is an important element of a vibrant community. As Bahá'í communities expand, the spiritual obligation of contributing acquires added importance and should be increasingly supported by the entire body of the believers. Friends in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry are utilizing spaces already in place - such as the Nineteen Day Feasts, home visits and other gatherings to raise awareness about the funds.

The Council initially thought of having fund education gatherings at the regional level. However, it soon realized that participation at regional gatherings was much less than at the village level. Many believers are involved in daily labour and a village gathering enabled them to participate. Also, the friends learned that there was very little participation of families at the regional level but when the gathering was held in the locality or village, more family members participated. Children who attended Bahá'í classes also came and soon began the habit of contributing. The setting allowed for home visits so all could be invited and no one felt excluded. These household visits facilitated discussion on subjects that came up naturally, such as family life, service and contributions and soon fund gatherings began to stimulate growth of other activities in the area. In this way, fund education began to enhance the community building process and was seen as an effort that strengthened it, than being seen as a separate process.

At the regional level, it was sometimes a struggle to understand the reality of individuals and their lives but at the village level one could talk to people in their settings and gain a much deeper appreciation for their sacrifice and contributions. The nature of expenses of the gatherings also changed. Regional gatherings were organised and funded by the Regional Council, but at the village level, households were involved in organising these and they soon became self-sufficient because the community hosted them in their homes and contributed to tea and snacks.

As part of the on-going efforts of the Regional Bahá'í Council to raise consciousness of the spiritual nature of giving, the Treasurer of the Council, along with fourteen assistant Treasurers in the clusters, make regular visits to Local Assemblies and individuals, sharing with them the importance of the fund and encouraging universal participation. Initially it was felt that Local Spiritual Assemblies could assist better if they are relatively strong and are functioning well. However, in one instance, the fund gathering itself assisted the Local Spiritual Assembly in its functioning. At a recent fund gathering, the assistant to the Treasurer was requested to help in organizing. He suggested that the Treasurer of the Council should meet with the Local Spiritual Assembly. Through calling this meeting, the Local Assembly met for the first time and elected its office bearers. They consulted together on funds and this soon led to discussion and planning for the bicentenary celebrations as well. The Local Assembly then decided it would take responsibility for the fund gathering. They organised one week of home visits prior to the gathering and another week after the gathering. A list of available Assembly members going on these visits was made. The Treasurer of the Council joined them two days prior to the gathering and also assisted with home visits. Thirty friends attended the fund gathering. Following this, the Local Spiritual Assembly met again and decided that they would hold regular Nineteen Day Feasts and open a local bank account. The Council is learning that these fund gatherings provide an opportunity to work closely with Local Spiritual Assemblies.

As a result of these systematic efforts the friends are becoming increasingly aware that it is each one’s spiritual obligation to support the Bahá'í fund. A culture is gradually emerging where greater numbers of believers are contributing as sacrificially as their means allow. If their economic status does not allow them to contribute in cash, they give to Bahá’u’lláh in kind or through physical labour. At a fund gathering in Virudhunagar, friends were inspired to think of ways by which they could contribute. In this area there is a great demand for fire-crackers used during festivals throughout the year and believers decided that they would make these, sell them and give their earnings to the Faith. Other believers grew a type of bitter melon that is very popular among locals, sold these and contributed the sale proceeds to God.

At another fund gathering in Vellore, a student said that she wanted to contribute. The Treasurer of the Council asked how she would do that since she was still in school. She said she would work after school hours in a factory that made bricks. The next week she gave the Treasurer a small box with money in it. Wanting to understand better the spirit of devotion and sacrifice that went into this contribution, the Treasurer visited the brick factory and saw for himself the hard physical labour the young girl was putting in – her hands turning red as she continuously placed the bricks line by line.

May these efforts so strenuously exerted be sustained and blessed by Him who is vigilantly watching from on high the self-sacrifice of His faithful believers.


* * *

Forthcoming meeting of the National Spiritual Assembly

17th, 18th & 19th November 2017, New Delhi.

Healing message of Baha'u'llah to the President of India.

NSA Members Ms. Nazneen Rohani and Mrs. Zena Sorablee

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulates Baha'is on the birth anniversary of Baha'u'llah.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Iraj Abedian participates in the "7th International Conference on the "Role of Religion in Development", hosted by City Montessori School (CMS) in Lucknow, India.

by Mr. Iraj Abedian

Participation in the "7th International Conference on the "Role of Religion in Development" , hosted by City Montessori School (CMS) in Lucknow, India, was an amazing learning experience and a unique opportunity to meet some truly remarkable individuals from diverse backgrounds & divergent ideological persuasions. The Honourable Dr Adel Omar Sherif, Deputy Chief Justice of Egypt, was one such personality. He has been the chief advisor for the conference since inception. Ms Tahirih Danesh provided remarkable insights, Prof Siraj Khan, Dr Muin Afnani & many others shared valuable inputs. Dr Jagdish Gandhi & his wife Dr Bharti Gandhi are nothing less than remarkable after over 50 years of dedicated service, and now in their 80s, they remain inspirational in their efforts to promote unity, build solid scientific&moral foundations for over 55000 scholars who are enrolled in the world-renowned CMS campuses in Lucknow. Our dear Katya & her friends are volunteers at CMS, involved in Junior Youth Empowerment Programme. Seeing Katya was a real cherry on top of all other blessings of this trip. We also had a 2-hour evening tour of Lucknow, so our hosts catered for all our interests with true Indian hospitality and generosity. Lucknow is known as the Shiraz of India! Shiraz is a well known city in the southern Iran famous for its poets, mystics, roses& the nightingales. The true significance of Shiraz however extends far beyond its historic fame- a tale that is best left for another occasion!

As I head back home, I cannot but wonder at the pace with which our human civilization is decaying whilst at the same time marvel at the fact that millions of our fellow humans are awakening to the reality that we all have a role to play in arresting the decay, rejuvenating the social cohesion, caring for the environment & expending our resources in the promotion of human solidarity. We surely have the scientific tools, but can we muster the required moral and spiritual commitment in this regard? For those at the conference the answer was exemplary & positive!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Justice Markandey Katju echoes the words of Baha'u'llah - "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."

By Justice Markandey Katju, former Judge, Indian Supreme Court

When I was a Judge of Allahabad High Court ( 199b1-2004 ) a large number of writ petitions were filed before me from time to time by old Pakistani citizens who had come to India on a visa of one month or so and did not want to go back.

So deportation orders were issued by the Indian government to deport them to Pakistan, which they challenged before me.

In every such case I would pass a stay order staying their deportation ' till further orders'. Since there are about a million ( ten lac ) cases in the Allahabad High Court, a case which had been heard once would usually be listed again after several years.

So the result of my stay orders was that in effect by a judicial order I converted a one month visa into a 5 year one or so ( because the case would come up again after 5 years or so, and till then the stay order would continue ).

Why did I do this ?

I did it because, as I have said repeatedly ( see my articles ' The Truth about Pakistan', etc online and on my blog ), I do not recognize the Partition of 1947, which was a historical swindle by the British on the basis of the bogus two nation theory, to keep Hindus and Muslims fighting each other, and thereby keep India, of which Pakistan ( and Bangladesh ) is really a part, weak and backward.

I refuse to be a party to this historical fraud and swindle and I have never recognized, and will never recognize Partition of my country. India and Pakistan ( and Bangladesh ) are one country, and are bound to be one day reunited under a strong, secular, modern minded government, which will not tolerate religious bigotry or extremism of any kind, whether Hindu or Muslim, and crush it with an iron hand.

So I regarded these petitioners before me as Indians. When they had been young men at the time of Partition they had been carried away by religious passions, incited by our British rulers or their agents, and in that fit of passion they migrated to Pakistan.

But now they had become old people, and were nostalgic and wanted to return to their native homes where they had spent their young days, and where many of their relatives still lived. Unfortunately, on migrating to Pakistan they lost their Indian nationality, and became Pakistanis.

The Indian Government has always been very reluctant to grant visas to Pakistanis, and even where it is granted after great difficulty, it is usually only for a short period of one month or so. Several conditions are also put on it, e.g. that the visa is only granted for living within one city, and there also one has to report to the nearest police station every week or so.

These old men ( and women ) had come on this short visa, and were reunited with their relatives and old friends, and wanted to spend the last days of their lives here. They realized the folly of their youth, but it was too late now, what could they do ?

As I said above, I do not recognize Pakistan. It is part of India, only temporarily separated, and I regard 'Pakistanis' as Indians ( whatever 'Pakistanis' may think of themselves ). So I regarded these petitioners as Indians. And how can an Indian be deported from India ?

I did not say so in my orders, but that was the real reason for passing them.